It's Pancake Time!
It's Pancake Time! Photo

An Amaranth Treat

One of the true pleasures of cooler weather is the way it spurs me to spend more time at the stove. To my way of thinking, autumn and winter mean baked goods. And also - pancakes.

Recently a powerful cold front blew through the Northeastern US, and as the temperature dropped into the 40’s I headed for the pantry. I’d just bought a couple of pounds of Amaranth flour, and the morning chill and its attendant pancake hunger triggered a creative rush. There were, I was certain, ways to shape a delicious flavor profile out of the grassy, earthy, strong taste of Amaranth. It seemed like a good day to try.

Luckily there were some overripe bananas lurking on the kitchen counter. These proved to be the final magic ingredient, providing both structure and a sweet, fruity finish.

Several test batches and a pile of scribbled notes later I was staring down at a stack of hot-from-the-pan griddle cakes. The kitchen was filled with come-hither scents. Leslie was waiting with a fork and a plate.

I always know I’ve hit pay dirt when Leslie sets aside some of the morning’s test bake for lunch, and that was exactly what she did. A bit of tune-up later, and a test with my pancake-loving mother-in-law, and I had my recipe.

This is an easy product to make, and also one with lots of alternative uses. You begin with four main ingredients to make a basic flour blend, then add some pancake-specific dry ingredients, mix and store. When you’re ready to make breakfast, add the wet ingredients and you’re good to go.

About that four-ingredient flour blend: It has the potential for a wide range of pastry products, ‘way more than just pancakes, so we’ll be coming back to it in the weeks ahead.

And now the recipe.

Amaranth Pancakes

First, measure the flour blend into a large bowl:

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups tapioca starch
2/3 cup amaranth flour
1 heaping cup gluten-free rolled oats

Next, measure in additional dry ingredients:

2 TBLS granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda

Pour everything into a large ziplock bag, seal the bag, and shake to mix thoroughly. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

To make about 8, six-inch-diameter pancakes:

Measure 1 cup of the mix into a medium bowl.
Mash 1 medium overripe banana in a separate bowl.
Place 2/3 cup whole milk OR 1 cup buttermilk in the bowl with the banana. (See notes below.)
Add 1 large egg to the banana-milk mixture and whisk with a fork until well-mixed.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until blended.
Add 2 TBLS cooking oil, stir until the batter is blended, then use immediately. (See notes below.)

You can achieve many subtle flavor variations with your choice of wet ingredients and oils. For example, buttermilk makes a lighter, fluffier cake, while amping up the flavor. Doubling the number of eggs lightens the cakes. Using Coconut oil (my personal favorite) gives your pancakes a lush tropical taste, and using canola oil reduces the taste bigness, making a more suitable breakfast for finicky eaters.

If you go the coconut oil route, you’ll need to get your mixture warmer than coconut oil’s melt point, which is around 80 F. I use the microwave to warm both milk and coconut to 85 F. It takes around 40 seconds on high, but all microwaves are different so use an instant-read thermometer to confirm the temperature.

You can also tweak the flavor by using different types of cooking fats. Bacon grease works great, but so do butter and the blander oils, such as canola. 

Oh and, yes, these pancakes are great with blueberries!

Finally, there’s one aspect of amaranth pancakes you’ll need watch carefully: when cooking, they quickly go past the stage of done. Keep your griddle around 300 F, and take frequent peeks under a lifted corner to be sure they’re not over-darkened.